I’m enjoying re-reading Infinite Jest, and I’m ready for it to be over.
I knew it was a risk, re-reading a book that was the epitome of “the right book at the right time” for me, now seven years ago. A lot has changed in that time. I have changed in that time. I was worried it wouldn’t feel special the second time around, that the spell would be broken.
It still feels special. It also feels dangerous.
I’m in a much better spot mentally and spiritually than I was when I first read the book. I feel connected to other people. I have a job where my talents are utilized and valued. I have a creative outlet through poetry. I have someone to love and who loves me. I feel secure in my present and my future. My brain, in short, feels better.
But my brain feels heavy when I read Infinite Jest. I can sense all of the characters and conversations about loneliness, depression and anxiety trying to worm their way back into my head. I can hear them asking, “Are you sure you don’t still feel this way, underneath it all?” Like Hal and the others, I start to wonder if I’m a good person, and if I’m good enough.
Because I’m reading a fresh copy of the book, I can’t always see the dangerous sections coming – the sections where, in my original copy, I made deep underlines throughout paragraphs, sometimes drawing a giant bracket in the margin that extended down the entire page. The sections where I once wrote “yes!” and drew sad faces in the margins. My reading is always accompanied by a slight sense of dread, not knowing when one of those sections is going to come up. [Spoiler: I’ve read ahead, and there’s a particularly gutting one on 693-696].
This week, more than any so far, I’m reminded more than ever about why I started my Erasing Infinite work. After I finished Infinite Jest the first time, I felt like I’d been trapped at the wrong end of a landslide, burdened down by the weight of what I’d read. As I’ve created poetry, page by page, I’ve been digging out, stone by stone. I’ve been lighter. Less burdened.
But here I am again, hiking a familiar trail, buried again under a fresh pile of rocks. In May, I will dig out again.
How’s your head?